When There Seems No Way

Have you felt stuck? I don’t mean stuck on a crossword problem. I’m talking at your wit’s end (overwhelmed and not sure how to proceed) because you’re…

Stuck in a rut, wheels spinning. 

Stuck in a tunnel, no end in sight.

Stuck in a wilderness, longing for green pastures.

Stuck in a spiritual dry spell, waiting for God to drench your spirit. 

Stuck with the consequences of poor decisions. 

I’ve been bogged down with all the above at some point. But lately, I’m stuck for words!

Perhaps you’ve been there. Searching for words to encourage someone who’s stuck in a barren land.

Words seem inadequate. So there are no words.

What can I say to the sister-in-law who mourns the death of her parents? The friend who lives with chronic pain. The dad hospitalized with COVID. Grown children crippled by anxiety. The young man looking for a job. The mom about to give birth after losing a premature child last year. Not one, but two recent widows, who ache for their husbands. Need I go on?

Sometimes I don’t know how to pray for these dear people. That’s when I rely on “the Spirit to intercede for me with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8: 26). 

Shutting my mouth and listening to someone who’s hurting often speaks louder than words. Besides, how can I share a timely word that lifts someone’s spirit without sounding trite? Fear of saying (or writing) the wrong thing kept me stuck for words until God’s Word reminded me.

When there are no words—there’s God.

God is TRUTH!

God’s Word is TRUTH!

Must we walk in someone’s shoes before we share the balm of truth? Scripture reveals God’s character by His actions. “Fear not. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”

Not if, but when we go through difficult times—God is with us. Why would we not want to share God’s goodness and mercy with someone whose hurting?

God makes a way when there seems no way.

Doubts, anger, grief, loneliness, pain, fear will try to convince us we’re stuck. There’s no way out of this situation . . . this heartache. But our feelings can’t eliminate facts. 

“Behold, I’m about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

When the way seems impossible, God makes a way . . . even in this.

Photos by Jennifer Wrede

You Okay?

My grandson toddles toward the lonely playground. He’s eighteen months old and this morning, his sights are fixed on the metal swing set. 

I watch his precarious baby steps as he navigates the gravel path. Best that I stay within arm’s reach in case Grandson falls. Sure enough, he stumbles.

“You’re okay. I got you!” 

I grasp his outstretched hand before his knees scrape the ground. Then, I lead him by the hand while we walk to the swing set.

After I settle on the swing, I lift Grandson to  my lap and wrap my arm around his waist. He leans back, fearless and content as we swing higher and faster.

This child trusts me with his safety. No whining or wiggling to suggest he’d rather be anywhere but here. Ohh, to be a carefree child!

Throughout my life, I’ve seen the Lord’s mercies. He repeatedly rescues me from danger and cushions my falls. So I know his eye is on me, and his Spirit guides me. But,

I want to trust God more. To be content with the here and now when life’s events feels like nettles in my socks.

Whenever I hear—pandemic, protests, politics—my body stiffens. I grumble about social distancing, quarantine, masks, my canceled appointments—hair today, denied tomorrow.

I raise my hands in protest rather than prayer.

This isn’t the summer vacation I bargained for. This isn’t the retired life I’d anticipated. This isn’t the lifestyle I’d envisioned for my grown children. I want to see my parents without fear of infecting them with COVID19!

Dad says, “Could be worse!”

Today is worse.

It’s nine a.m. and I’m drenched in sweat as the mercury in my outdoor thermometer inches toward a hundred. I can tolerate the heat, but rolling power outages and Red Flag Warnings (to evacuate our home) are in effect while the not-so-distant wildfires paint the sky ash grey. Yesterday, the foothills looked like they were puffing a cigarette. Today, they’re a chain-smoker.

I inhale deep, before the winds shift south and the air smells like a stale smoking lounge. I worry for the firefighters. I ponder what I’d do if my house burned down.

My body is swinging in the breeze, but my disposition is teetering on the edge of a miry pit. God intervenes like the doting Father that he is.

“Karen, you’re okay. I got you.”

I want to believe you, Lord, but…. 

From where I stand on planet earth, it feels like you’ve abandoned your creation. Not that I’d blame you. A time out, with our noses on the wall, might do everyone some good. But right now, I’m not feeling okay. 

God knows me. And yes, he is patient. He brings to mind what my mentor, Loretta, has told me repeatedly. The eternal perspective that has pulled me up by the boot straps on more than one occasion, and helped me forge ahead by God’s grace. 

She’d point to the pandemic, the wildfires and the nettles in my socks and tell me, 

“Every circumstance is an opportunity for God to teach and change us.” 

Change us? How?

To become more like Christ—more loving, compassionate, kind, patient, forgiving, willing to serve, prayerful.

I inwardly squirm. “I don’t want to learn these lessons the hard way. Can’t I sit in my recliner and read the Bible and be changed?”

My grandson points to the sky, bringing me back to this sweet spot.

I follow his wide-eyed gaze.

“That’s a Red-Tail Hawk,” I tell him. “Birds use thermals to soar without flapping their wings.”

My grandson isn’t old enough to comprehend everything I say, but he’s taking it all in—his surroundings, my words, the tone of my voice, my actions. He’s getting to know me as well as life.

Spending time with someone will do that, you know. 

Grandson scoots off my lap and heads for the tall metal slide. He’s been there before. And he’s not afraid. He knows that grandma will be right beside him. 

 That’s a God lesson . . . even in this!

How to Run with Endurance

Are you exhausted from running the race marked out for you? Have your faith muscles been stretched further than you thought you could endure?

This year I learned, once again, the importance of FAITH when I had to endure a heart wrenching event. Followed by a continual avalanche of minor first-world problems that threatened to trip me.

The Hebrews Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11) show men and women who endured hardships where the physical reality—what they could see—often made no sense. And may have presented God as absent and unloving.

These people weren’t commended for who they were or what they accomplished. They were commended because they held onto their faith despite hardships.

Their faith moved them from a ‘contract faith’ which means I’ll follow God if He treats me well—to a relationship that surpasses hardships.

I learned this lesson when I was in my mid-thirties. I thought my faith was rock solid. Then I had three miscarriages in a two year span.

I accepted the first miscarriage. Life happens, right? Plus, I had two toddlers. However, grieving for my baby made me long for another one. The second miscarriage threw me in a downward spiral. Instead of praising God in the storm, I whined because my two best friends had babies. By the third miscarriage, I shook my fist at God.

“Why is this happening? Don’t you love me?”

I had a contract faith: I expected God to prove that He loved me by giving me what I wanted.

Then one night I cried out, “Lord, I trust you to give me a baby in your time. Or, fill my void with Yourself.”

I claimed Isaiah 27:13,14. “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord … Wait for the Lord; Be strong….”

Sometimes, all we can do is believe God and wait—for His guidance, His intervention, His promises.

That season of loss and—believing God—was a pivotal turning point in my faith. The Lord renewed my spirit and gave me His perfect peace. When I least expected it, He gave me a son … who was born premature, but that’s another faith lesson.

Remembering God’s faithfulness over the years enables me to run with endurance. Even in this … latest hardship.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

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Is God Any Less Maternal?

“Mommy!” 

When I heard the child holler, my eyes searched the grocery store’s produce section for that frightened voice as if he were my own child. The little guy stood, wide-eyed and flushed, next to the pumpkins. Before I could come to his aid, his mother rushed around the corner and embraced him.

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I thought about my own mom. When I was a wee child she’d come running whenever I called her name. She’d…

  • Rescue me from a yapping dog.
  • Kiss the boo boo on my scraped knee.
  • Console me at night if I was scared.
  • Smooth my warm brow when I was ill.
  • Watch me turn a cartwheel; listen to me jabber.
  • Defend me when Little Brother kicked me with his cowboy boots.

Mommy did this and more because I was her child and she loved me.

Is God the Father any less maternal toward His children?

From the time we’re born, He woos us and waits for us to recognize that we’re lost and need Him. The moment we holler, Jesus…for there is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved…He rescues us. Adopts us into His family. Loves us with an everlasting love where nothing can snatch us from God’s hand. But our relationship doesn’t stop there.

Think of a child summoning his mother when he’s alarmed or in need. Should God’s children do anything less?

When we call on the powerful name of Jesus, we’re able to flee temptation and obey the Father’s will. He restores broken lives; strengthens us to do all things. In Jesus’ name, Satan and his demons cower and flee.

However, this same Almighty God, is tender, protective; devoted. In scripture, He compares Himself to…

  • cochin-1415260_1280A mother hen who longs to gather her chicks to care for them.
  • As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.
  • A mama bear jealously guarding her cubs.

Assured of God’s love and Who we belong to, the Bible tells us to call the name of the Lord…often and with confidence…when we’re afraid, grieving, in pain, confused; anxious.

Why then, would I ever choose to not call the Lord’s name? Do I only cry for Jesus when I need Him?

When I consider Who Christ is and what He accomplished on the cross, that joyous, mind-blowing thought makes me want to shout God’s praises every day….

Even in this maddening world.

 

Images: Pixabay

 

Emptiness Allows Room for God

My mentor, Loretta, texted. “God has this. It’s not all on you.”

I tossed a package of decongestant pills and cough drops into my suitcase. “I hope so because I’m empty.”

I’d been ill for two weeks. My friends prayed I’d be well enough to attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. My health improved in the nick of time. Whether I could endure the nonstop, four-day conference remained a mystery.

The first afternoon, I sat outside on a bench with a plate of meatballs and diced cheese. Writers, editors, and agents mingled beneath the budding trees. I scanned the smiling faces. There were people I knew. Others I wanted to meet. However, the thought of small talk exhausted me. I leaned back and stared at a tree adorned with pink blossoms.

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“Lord, I can’t do this.”

And a small voice whispered. “I got this. Go rest.”

If I’d been less empty, I might have argued. “God, I payed a lot of money to come here. I need to get the most from this conference. I have to talk to….”

An empty person doesn’t get far on their own strength. I went to my room and napped.

emptywwordsAt dinner, I went through the buffet line and searched for a place to sit. I had no agenda. My energy remained low. That’s when I saw an editor I wanted to meet. He sat at a table in the corner of the room. I asked to join him. We talked for an hour and he prayed for me.

I went to sleep that night, assured God had my back. It wasn’t all on me.

That’s how the weekend unfolded. I never plotted or panicked. I’d walk into the crowded dining room and notice an empty chair and clean placemat at one of the tables as if the Lord had reserved that one spot for me.

During coffee break, I’d turn around and find someone I wanted to meet or thank.

It’s difficult for a control freak to stay empty. However, emptiness kept me from being full of myself. Oh, that I’d be empty more often!

Emptiness allowed room for God to fill me and lead the way. I experienced…

“God’s grace that is sufficient when we’re weak.”
“The joy of the Lord is my strength” when someone prayed for my renewed energy.

Then God surprised me beyond my imagination. I met Francine Rivers.

She’s written many books including one of my favorite, Redeeming Love. Her book made a huge impact on me. And I’ve given Redeeming Love to many women especially when I served as a jail chaplain for female prisoners.

Meeting Francine Rivers blessed me. She’s a genuine lady. But the opportunity to talk with her felt like another God moment. My empty jar overflowed with love for Him. I wanted to stand on my chair and sing the Hallelujah Chorus.

Lord knows that would have emptied the room!

 

http://francinerivers.com/books/redeeming-love/

http://writers.mounthermon.org

Jar photograph: http://jennywredephotography.com